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WILTZ: Did he have talent or luck with a new bow?

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outdoors Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Sam, my only grandson and the son of our youngest daughter LuAnn and her husband Tom, has had some interesting experiences during his first season as a Wisconsin archery hunter. Sam’s a 16-year-old high school junior.

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While deer hunting from a tree stand that sits on his other grandparents’ home property, four turkey gobblers milled about beneath him at the borderline range of 40 yards. He had a turkey tag, so he decided to take a shot with his Diamond Infinite compound bow. His fixed blade Muzzy broad head passed through the vitals of the biggest gobbler, leaving the bird stone dead just inside the tree line. The big bird, sporting a foot-long beard, was his first bow kill.

His archery buck quest continues. Now he is hunting a buck he calls the “Bad Luck Buck.” His first encounter with the buck was educational. With the buck directly under his tree, he discovered that he had hung the bow beside him upside down. In fumbling to right the bow, he spooked the buck. As if to rub in his futile effort, the buck appeared later that morning just outside his grandparents’ dining area window as Sam ate a late breakfast. It will be interesting to see if Sam spares old “Bad Luck” during the coming rifle season for another archery shot.

Provenance of guns

I wasn’t familiar with the term “provenance” until I watched “Pawn Stars.”

In its simplest terms, the word “provenance” means origin or source. It refers to who owned a particular item or what that item was associated with. Provenance will increase the value of an item if the who, what or where of the item can be proven through documentation. That value is a matter of degree. It depends on just how important the person who owned it was, or how important the event the item is associated with was.

Last night, I was watching the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars.” A man came into the shop with a Model 1873 Winchester rifle that he said was a part of the South Dakota 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. He had the papers to prove it, and Rick paid a substantial amount of money for the rifle’s provenance. I would suggest that if you are going to buy an old car, book, house, gun, piece of jewelry or item of furniture, you might do well to look into the item’s provenance.

I also noted on the news R that the pistol Wild Bill Hickok was carrying the day he was shot in the back by Jack McCall in a Deadwood saloon was being sold. This gun certainly has some provenance but apparently not enough as the Smith & Wesson pistol failed to get a high enough opening bid. In a future column I’ll talk about McCall’s pistol.

Finding out who owned a particular piece and proving it is often an impossible task. Even with that, the owner’s fame is something we can only hope for, but minor miracles do happen. I have a friend who bought a Remington Model 1858 revolver. Date wise, the gun “could” be a Civil War piece. After removing the grips one day, he found some pencil writing on the inside of a grip. It included a soldier’s name, his Minnesota outfit, and the places the campaign had brought him. Our War Department verified the soldier’s name, rank and places his unit had been. The gun obviously has some provenance.

With some Colt pistols, a provenance search can get a head start. This is true with First Generation SAA (Single Action Army) Colt pistols. Colt will send you a factory watermarked letter based on the original factory handwritten shipping ledgers for a fee. Based on serial number, the letter can include the gun’s original configuration along with who the gun was shipped to. This service can also include some 1851 and 1861 Colt Navy models. Contact Colt Archive Properties LLC, P.O. Box 1868, Hartford, CT 06144-1868. Also check the Colt website www.coltsmfg.com.

Generally speaking, a Colt factory letter will be well worth Colt’s fee if the pistol is still as described when it left the factory. It has been estimated that at least half of the existing First Generation Colt SAA’s have been altered in some way. The name of the original buyer and the place the gun was shipped could also provide a lead. I personally own a First Generation Colt SAA, and I’m leaning toward paying for a factory letter.

What got me on this provenance kick today? I received a phone call from a senior column reader. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in his Model 1873 Winchester. Now in his 80s, he bought the gun from a neighbor for $15 when he was 15 years old. He also remembered that neighbor’s name. In looking in the phone book, it would appear that his old neighbor still has kin in the area.

As any 1873 Winchester is highly desirable, I bought the rifle for a fair price. I plan to put a letter together describing the transaction, and having it notarized at the local bank. I also plan to check with the previous owner’s kin, and see if that possible homesteader had some significant history connected to him. Chances are I’m wasting my time, but I do enjoy this sort of thing, and I’ll keep you posted.

If nothing else comes of this, at least I’ll know first-hand how the gun was used during the past 70 years. I’d guess there were some chicken coop — fox or coyote confrontations. The old $15 selling price would appear to be right on as a new 1873 Winchester cost around $20. 720,610 Model 1873 Winchesters were made between 1873 and 1919. My new acquisition was made in 1897.

See you next week.

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